Partition Table Lost...But still able to boot

Hewlett-packard / A1632x
September 3, 2009 at 21:15:47
Specs: Win Vista Ultimate x64, 2.4GHz Quad-Core
Ok, so the long short of the problem is this:

I recently attempted to install ubuntu on my main machine just for fun (not the first that that I have installed it....just the first time on this computer)

So I partitioned my secondary main disk (a 640gb, I have two 640gb hhd's, and two 400gb hhd's) because it had the most space available. Well, somehow in the process of getting the disk setup, all of my hard drives lost their partition table. So now when I go into ubuntu, or gparted, or any other program that allows my to view my disks and partitions, they all come up as unallocated space.

The weird thing is that I can still boot into vista, use the os, and see all of the files on all the disks. But even programs that are made to view my disks that run in vista cannot see the partitions.

So I ran the pro version of Partition Table Doctor 3.5 to see if it could rebuild them...It couldn't find the partitions.

Any ideas here? I want to reinstall my os, but I can't partition when it sees all the disks as unallocated space.


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September 3, 2009 at 21:23:22
Try using testdisk to repair the disks partition tables. Be sure to read the tutorials thoroughly before using. Get it below.

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September 3, 2009 at 21:29:04
I forgot to mention that I already tried that program thoroughly on one of my smaller disks that it wouldn't make a big deal if I did something to mess it up, (its my backup system, my 640gb mirrors the secondary 640gb, and the same thing with the 400gb hard drives).

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September 3, 2009 at 21:36:40
I don't understand why you can't partition if the disks are seen as unallocated space. That is what a new drive is.

After re-reading your original post I am not sure what you started with. Were you using RAID 1 or are you just using the word mirror casually?

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September 3, 2009 at 21:59:56
I was just using it casually....I'd have to have a temporary space to put all of my files I have now if I wanted to set a RAID up, which is something that I will undoubtedly do in the future as I do a lot of video work.

I can't partition them, because when I used to partition them in gparted, it would show me which section of the hard drive had files on it, and which part didn't, that way I can partition safely.

Nothing is new by the way, I've had this setup for awhile.

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September 4, 2009 at 06:21:20
I'm not sure of this, Vista can use a totally different partition setup where the MBR partition table is not used ,but the whole disk is marked as 1 partition for safety from other partition programs. No older partition programs will work in this case.

Use only MS Vista program to look at partitions (in XP it is Disk Management) , do not know what Vista calls it. Does it show partitions ?

If hdd is setup with the new partition method it can not be use by other OS's that have not been updated with the new method.

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September 4, 2009 at 07:46:18
I'm not sure of this, Vista can use a totally different partition setup where the MBR partition table is not used

Vista uses the same partiton setup as Windows XP, Windows 98, Windows NT, Windows 3.1, MS-DOS and even Linux.

The partiton table in the MBR is the first part of the hard disk that the BIOS looks at get information as to how to proceeded with the boot process. Therefore the partiton table has to conform to a standard that all BIOS code can understand. There is a slight difference bwtween Windows MBR and a Linux MBR but that has to do with the boot loader and not the partition table.

Every physical hard disk has it's own MBR so I would suggest that what is happening here is the Viata is booting form a hard disk that still has a usable MBR where the partiton table that appears to be corrupted is on a different physical disk.


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September 4, 2009 at 07:48:38
Excerpts from notes I made while loading a system with both XP MCE 2005 and Vista Premium....

2. is probably related to your problem.

You may also find you're losing all the System Restore restore points in Vista as in 1. when you dual or multiboot another operating system.

1. It's relatively easy to dual boot XP and Vista, even if they're on different hard drives and were loaded on those drives by themselves, and there are free programs available that make tweaking that easy. However, by default whenever you boot XP, ALL the accumulated System Restore restore points are lost in Vista, every time you boot XP (or 2000). That was a bonehead thing for Microsoft to not fix before they released Vista.
If you don't want to lose the Vista System Restore restore points every time you boot XP (or 2000)............
There is no Microsoft fix. There are Microsoft suggested workarounds, but some are only available if you have a Vista Ultimate or a Vista Business version (most people are using Vista Home Basic or Vista Home Premium because they're cheaper - brand name systems usually have Home Basic or Home Premium on them), and there is Microsoft suggested registry tweak you can do in Vista, if you don't have the Ultimate or Business version of Vista, but not every program you can load in Vista is compatible with that tweak, and in that case you have to undo the registry tweak at least temporarily, and then you lose the Vista restore points anyway.

The best solution, if you don't have the Ultimate or Business version of Vista, is to use a third party multi-boot boot manager program that can HIDE the Vista partition from the XP installation while booting XP, then the Vista restore points are NOT deleted.
I tried Partition Magic 8.0's Boot Magic program - it works, but it does not enable a mouse to select the operating system with (that was required for the disabled person that owns the computer). I searched and found several boot manager programs with mouse support, that support booting Vista - some free - most will work with a USB mouse if Legacy USB or similar is enabled in the mboards's bios Setup.The ones you pay for are about $25 and up. I found a site that says many of these don't support the Hibernate feature for mboards in Vista properly, but otherwise they work fine.(Since I did not continue with trying Boot Magic, I don't know if you can configure it to HIDE the Vista partition from XP while booting XP, or whether it supports the Hibernate feature for mboards in Vista properly.) I tried one free Linux based one - could not get it to work - not enough help info came with it or available online.
I tried BootIt! New Generation - it works fine andit DOES support the Hibernate feature for mboards in Vista properly, but it's $35 US after 30 days.It's install program is only 8xx kb and easily fits on a boot floppy, or you can make a bootable CD - it's nice to know someone is still making programs that are not bloatware. It includes a simple partition manipulation program that you can create, resize, move, delete, copy, merge, etc. partitions with. It has lots of help in the program and online, but you do have to find out how to do some stuff manually (e.g. enable it to HIDE the Vista partition from the XP installation while booting XP), so it's not suitable for someone who's clueless.

(If you need more info about using BootIt! NG, PM me).

2. Vista doesn't make NTFS partitions 100% the same way as XP and previous OSs do. It starts the first one a bit farther into the hard drive (rather than at sector 64) , and it can leave unallocated sectors between multiple partitions on a drive. Part of the reason for that is to accommodate new hard drives that will be using larger than the 512 byte sectors they've been using up till now, in the future I assume.

It also has non-standard data in a certain standard feature associated with the partition (the name of that I don't recall, but I could dig that up).
This results in - to fix the non-standard data -
- Partition Magic and some other older partition manipulation programs that are not Vista ready or similar don't recognize the Vista NTFS partitions as being valid.
Partition Magic sees the partition type as ??? and as completely filled, whether it is or not.
If the first NTFS partition on a hard drive was made by Vista, Partition Magic won't even load and generates an error code (in my case it was on the second partition).
You can cure that by running chkdsk /r from XP, by booting with the XP CD and using the Recovery Console option, and checking the partition Vista has been installed on, then Partition Magic etc. see the partition normally. However, that can take several hours - running chkdsk /r takes a lot longer than running chkdsk /f - you can't run the latter in the Recovery Console.
OR if you're starting from scratch you can make all the partitions with something other than Vista, instead of using Vista to do that - in which case such programs will recognize the partitions normally. Vista recognizes partitions made with older programs and OSs (Win 98 and up) fine.
- (NOTE that this may only apply if you use a third party multi-boot boot manager program that can HIDE the Vista partition from the XP installation while booting XP) - even after you have run chkdsk /r from XP, Vista can see and access the XP NTFS partition, but XP can't show or access the Vista partition (at least, the one Vista's Windows was installed on) in My Computer or Windows Explorer - it does show up in XP in Disk Management but as an unknown partition type. If you want to be able to exchange files both ways between XP and Vista Windows partitions, you need to make at least one other partition that doesn't have Windows Vista on it that both OSs can see, and place files you want to share on that.
- Vista can shrink (resize it smaller) an existing partition, so you can use the unallocated space then made available to make more than one partition on a drive without losing the data on the one(s) that already have data, but if you alter the partition with something other than Vista or a 100% Vista compatible program, Vista may no longer work at all and has to be re-loaded from scratch. It is also dicey to copy a Vista made partition - it can be done but you have to look up how to do it properly online.

More details....

".......- even after you have run chkdsk /r from XP, Vista can see and access the XP NTFS partition, but XP can't show or access the Vista partition (at least, the one Vista's Windows was installed on)"

Her system has two 500gb SATA drives. Both presently have multiple partitions (more than two).
One drive was new and blank - the other had existing partitions on it made previously, by something other than Vista.

The system had previously been booting MCE from a partition on a 160gb IDE drive, and also had the older 500gb SATA drive and an 80gb IDE drive - there had been only one Windows installation, but it needed to be re-installed because it had problems I had not been able to fix no matter what I had tried.

The intention was to dual boot MCE and Vista, have all the data that had originally been on the 160gb IDE drive's partitions other than the one MCE had been booting from, and all the data that had originally been on the 80gb drive, transferred to one or the other SATA drive, and then stop using the IDE hard drives.

I installed XP MCE on the first partition on the one blank new 500gb drive, then installed Vista on the second partition on the same drive after hiding the first partition with Partition Magic. Vista saw the hidden partition MCE was on anyway, but didn't auto install a dual boot configuration. At that point, the new hard drive booted Vista, not MCE.
I found a couple of free programs that made it easy to tweak things so I was dual booting MCE and Vista using Vista's built in ability to do that, but then found all the System Restore points were lost in Vista after I had booted MCE. I then found, eventually, BootIt! NG cured that problem.

I made all partitions other than the second one on the one hard drive with Vista on it with XP, or possibly Partition Magic 8.0. , so I don't know if MCE would have been able to see other Vista made NTFS partitions other than the one Vista's Windows was installed on.

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September 4, 2009 at 10:11:59
StuartS, that made me remember.....Right now, I am booting my main Vista Ultimate OS off of my second HDD. So Vista is installed on HD0, but I am booting from HD2, (I think that HD1 is a 400gb hdd). HD2 (the secondary 640gb hdd) is currently the only drive that shows up in all of the partition manager programs, including the one that I am running from vista.

In this case, what software would I need to correct this? Or is the only way to correct this to clone my HD0 (main 640gb hdd) And then reformat the original?


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September 4, 2009 at 13:47:02
StuartS--It might, but on new larger hdd's (I do not know how large is large) it will use the new GUID partition table that is outside of the normal MBR. It can have 128 primary partitions.

The link below may apply to problem:

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September 4, 2009 at 13:52:58
I might just get another 640gb hdd and clone each of my current drives drive by drive and then formatting them (I'll clone my first 640gb hard drive, then format it, copy the data back, then do the same thing with the other drives in turn).

Let me know if there would be an easier and less time-consuming way to do it via software though.


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